The Importance of Sterilization For Phlebotomists
Hand hygiene is an essential part of the daily routine for anyone working in a healthcare environment. Cleaning your hands by using either hand washing, antiseptic hand wash, or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, including foam or gel, can help to prevent the spread of potentially deadly germs to patients and the risk of a healthcare provider being colonized or infected by germs acquired from the patient.
This is especially true of phlebotomists, as their normal responsibilities include the drawing and handling of patient’s blood.
Sterilizing Hand-held Equipment
A needle and syringe is the most common tool for withdrawing large quantities of blood.
A sterile single-use needle and syringe should be used for each patient and should be placed, as a single unit, into a sharps container immediately after use.
Safety-engineered equipment offers better protection to the health worker but should be appropriate for the specific task. Some devices designed to prevent reuse (e.g. auto-disable syringes) are not appropriate for phlebotomy. Safety devices are more expensive, so if resources are limited, their use may need to be restricted to procedures associated with the greatest rates or risk of sharps injury.
Capillary punctures should be performed using a sterile device – preferably with safety features that automatically retract the lancet – to help prevent both reuse and sharps injuries.
Alcohol-Based Hand Sanitizer vs. Washing with Soap and Water
As a general rule, alcohol-based hand sanitizers are the most effective products for reducing the number of germs on the hands of a healthcare provider, with antiseptic soaps and detergents representing the next most effective product and non-antimicrobial soaps the least effective.
During routine patient care alcohol-based hand sanitizers should be used regularly to clean hands and in the following situations:
Before and after having direct contact with a patient’s intact skin (taking a pulse or blood pressure, performing physical examinations, lifting the patient in bed)
After contact with blood, body fluids or excretions, mucous membranes, non-intact skin, or wound dressings
After contact with inanimate objects (including medical equipment) in the immediate vicinity of the patient
If hands will be moving from a contaminated body site to a clean body site during patient care
After glove removal
After using a restroom
Washing with antiseptic soap and water should be used on the following occasions:
When hands are visibly dirty
After known or suspected exposure to Clostridium difficile if your facility is experiencing an outbreak or higher endemic rates
After known or suspected exposure to patients with infectious diarrhea during norovirus outbreaks
If exposure to Bacillus anthracis is suspected or proven
After using a restroom
Hand Hygiene Techniques
Alcohol-based hand sanitizers: Put the product on your hands and rub your hands together. Cover all surfaces and continue to rub the product in until your hands feel dry. This should take around 20 seconds.
Antiseptic soap and water: When cleaning your hands with soap and water, first wet your hands with water, then apply the product to your hands, and rub your hands together vigorously for at least 15-20 seconds, covering all surfaces of the hands and fingers.
Rinse your hands with water and use disposable towels to dry. Use a towel to turn off the faucet.
Avoid using hot water to prevent drying of the skin.
False Nails and Jewelry: Studies have shown that germs can live under artificial fingernails both before and after using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer and handwashing, It is therefore recommended that healthcare providers do not wear artificial fingernails or extensions when having direct contact with patients and keep natural nail tips less than ¼ inch long.
Some studies have shown that skin underneath rings contains more germs than comparable areas of skin on fingers without rings and jewelry has the potential to breach secure layers, such as latex gloves, so it is recommended that healthcare providers remove all hand jewelry before attending work.
Learning New Skills
At Northwest Career College, we pride ourselves on providing one of the premier Phlebotomy Schools in Las Vegas. Our phlebotomy students have an 89% national exam pass rate and you can graduate in as little as three months. Our established, seasoned instructors will take you through every aspect of Phlebotomy and Northwest offers day, afternoon and night classes to accommodate your busy Las Vegas work and family schedule. Call us today at (702) 403-1592 to speak to one of our admissions specialists about your new Phlebotomy career.
Jenette Ashcraft, N.C.M.A.
Allied Health Department Director
R.M.A. National Education Center